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Sikander Mahmood

BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering
Placement with National Grid, London (Sept 2015 – Sept 2016)

Sikander Mahmood

Why did you apply to the University of Bradford? What was your first impression of the university and the city? What do you like about Bradford?

I am a local lad, born and bred in a nearby town called Huddersfield. Bradford is only a 30-minute drive for me, so I thought it would be perfect. In addition, University of Bradford is in the top 21 for engineering and has great resources to help its students, so it was a no brainer!

The University of Braford has always set goals to improve each year and during my time here I have experienced this first hand. They have been working on the redevelopment and refurbishment of some of the buildings, labs and lounge areas. One thing I can say is that they are constantly pushing for new ideas and plans to improve the experience for their students. I have not spent a huge amount of time in the city, however, from what I have seen it has everything a student needs.

Why did you choose that particular course? What did you like and enjoy most about the course?

Throughout my life, I have always been interested in how things work. Instead of reading and simply learning material in subjects such as Biology and English, I am able to actively solve problems and apply knowledge in every aspect of engineering. This is what I was looking for a degree which some could say is an all in one. Mechanical engineering at Bradford not only provides you with engineering knowledge it also helps you incorporate other skills such as report building, presentation skills, business knowledge, managerial skills and the list goes on.

What tips would you give to prospective students about the course at the University of Bradford and the university itself?

Don’t waste time. I am not saying don’t have a life, rather utilise your time efficiently. When you have free time available use the services that the University of Bradford provides. The library has great material, the Careers Office has valuable knowledge and the computers have all the software you need to progress with your degree.

Another key piece of information is “don’t be afraid to speak up”.  If you are struggling, speak to your Tutor and if you are finding lectures difficult, go and speak to your lecturer; you will be surprised at how helpful they are; they would sometimes change the format of their lectures because of the feedback they received.

What support have you received from Career and Employability Services / Placement Staff?

Throughout the first semester, Career and Employability Services offered a variety of lectures and group sessions to help and support students and give them the knowledge necessary to have the best chance of securing a placement.  My CV wasn’t great; however, after a few sessions with the Careers Consultant linked to my faculty, my CV and cover letter looked great.

I was also given the material to be able to practice scenarios at assessment centres, interview situations and psychometric tests.  All of which helped me secure my placement with National Grid.

What action are you taking to improve your employability whilst at University?

Taking on board all the advice I receive at university!  University is not only there to teach you the modules of your course, rather they prepare you for the outside world. I try to manage my time as efficiently as possible at university, using the provided timetables and also creating a task list of my own. This is a skill that all employers want to see.

What advice would you give to your fellow students about finding placement and work experience opportunities?

First and foremost, make sure you do an industrial placement; I cannot recommend it enough! Secondly, I am sure most people will tell you this, start searching straight away (even before you start the university year).  Some jobs having short closing dates so that the company can prepare for the intake.  Also don’t give up at the first hurdle, keep searching, keep applying the right job for you will come up and you will be over the moon.  I can honestly say I that I applied to over 20 jobs, however, I was only offered one job in the end and I have never looked back!

The university also holds Careers Fairs (up to 3 per year) which you should consider attending, you get the chance to understand the companies better and also build your network (something which is invaluable).

Tell us about your current placement (include brief responsibilities)

I did my industrial placement at National Grid, a FTSE 100 company and the energy industry leader in the UK, as a Technical Engineer (Keyhole and Vacuum Excavation Advisor).  I worked in the gas distribution network and was tasked with improving the efficiency and performance of two major technologies. The first being Keyhole, and the second, Vacuum Excavation. Keyhole technology is a new way of fixing gas leaks, instead of manual excavation, a machine is used to drill a core out of the ground which then allows the workers to repair the gas leak from above. Vacuum excavation is essentially a large vacuum to suck “spoils” out of the ground (I will save you the detail)!

My role was mainly a project management role and I was given the opportunity to take the full lead on major projects, this gave me the platform to build my network, so much so that the COO of the company was talking about me. I built various reports to allow management to better coordinate the technologies and conducted various trials with external companies. By the end of my placement year, the performance of vacuum excavation increased by 70%.

The company also gave me the opportunity to explore other areas of their business. Whenever I wanted to learn more, I was able to travel across the UK and learn as much as I could. The placement scheme at National Grid is amazing and they truly value their employees, so much so that I have been offered a place on the graduate scheme!

How will the placement year benefit you when you return to study at the University of Bradford?

Firstly, my worries have disappeared. As I have now secured the job with National Grid, I do not need to apply once I am back at university. Secondly, it has provided me with so many skills that I can incorporate into my learning approach.  My time management and communication skills have improved so much that people are picking up on it and asking me what my secrets are.

My final year project will be on renewables and I have now created a network big enough in the energy sector to allow me to accomplish this easily.

I am not trying to over exaggerate the scheme, if you choose to do a placement year with the company you truly respect and believe in, your final year will be a breeze!